Each year travellers of different nationalities get arrested, detained and imprisoned either at their final destination or at stopovers to and from this. International tourist arrivals increased by over 4% in 2012 surpassing the one billion mark for the first time to 1.035 billion.
The portion of foreigners in prison is also increasing in numbers as well as in relative terms spurred by large scale migration trends, narcotics trade and travel which is much easier than before.
What started as a leisure or business travel experience can suddenly become a traumatic and incomprehensible experience in an environment unknown and unprepared by the tourist. This can be further compounded by discrimination, isolation, a lack of knowledge of the local language, culture, regulation, limited access to representation or family members and harsh living conditions.
With traveller detention and arrest on the increase, this discussion reviews why detention occurs, the tourism and hospitality industry’s position on dealing with the issue and areas of suitable response going forward by the industry. While acknowledging the issues of shock, denial and sense of helplessness at an individual level when a crisis occurs, tourism crisis documentation, management and responses are studied as incidents at a destination level such as earthquakes and floods.

Imprisonment and detention of tourists are often overlooked in the literature as a possible crisis scenario. On research conducted on risks perceived by travellers, various fears and concerns were expressed by travellers that would prevent them from choosing a destination such as war and military conflict, life-threatening diseases and acts of terrorism.
Safety was the greatest perceived fear resulting by acts of war, violence, bombings, kidnappings and crime. While some of these could lead to arrest such as acts of violence or illegal detention such as kidnapping, the respondents were not questioned on the fear of possible outcomes. The travel industry has also been largely silent on the promotion of possible overseas detention. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) crisis advice booklet ‘Crisis – It won’t Happen to Us’ prepared as a practical document for use in the tourism and hospitality also had a focus on man-made and natural disasters.
Popular television programmes such as ‘Locked Up Abroad’ show re-enactments and interviews based on real-life harrowing situations of visitors imprisoned or kidnapped in foreign countries and the conditions that they were incarcerated in.
Coupled with increasing traveller exchanges through social media and smartphone Apps by a growing global travel audience, negative impacts and sometimes harsh treatment of what can happen to incarcerated travellers are now all too apparent. With this there is a greater demand on providing an appropriate and adequate response from the industry and academia. In affirming tourism as one of the most vulnerable industries to crises and the traveller’s poor logic of risk perception, Santana stresses the need for the tourism industry to have adequate crisis management responses and expertise in place to deal with real and perceived possibilities. A logical process of detection, prevention, containment, recovery and learning is suggested by Santana.
Although the research and cases evolved on crises based on nature, system failures and conflicts, the article showed the increase of tourism crises and with this the need to deal with them adequately. In ‘Tourism & Crime’.
One of the few tourism texts that deals directly with the subject of crimes committed by tourists as well as responses, a response focus was to rely on more policing with issues best managed by local and international judiciary powers. It was acknowledged though that the increasing presence of security personnel and publication of the measures against these criminal acts ‘actually all work to sharpen subjective feelings of insecurity. Thus, attempts to feed the monster of insecurity via more policing – public and private – is rather like scratching an itch that simply gets worse’.
Although visitor detention and arrest is on the increase, the issue was left unaddressed.
Increase in traveller detention and imprisonment

On research conducted on foreigner imprisonment in US jails, Bosworth and Kaufman warn that in the past decade there has been a significant increase of convicted foreign nationals from 4088 in 1984 to over an estimated 95,000 in mid-2009 or 4.1% of total State and Federal prisons. This is not spread equally from State to State. A major factor has been the increase of Mexicans representing nearly 70% of US prison population. This is due mostly to illegal immigration followed by drug-related crimes.

A growing mixture of foreign and local inmates and its demographic breakdown will create its own challenges for the prison system in dealing with this cultural interaction. There are over 100,000 foreigner prisoners in European jails and growing, and while numbers vary between countries, the average percentage of foreign to local prisoners is over 20%.
There needs to be a caveat that each country will have its separate administrative, criminal system, international cooperation on arrest warrants, laws on arrest, detention, deportation, as well as offenses that carry possible jail time. Cross-border immigration detainees could inflate prisoner numbers in some jurisdictions more than others such as in the USA. Migrant labour and foreigners permanently residing overseas should also be factored into the foreigner detention numbers. However, the global trend is clear that an increasing number of foreigners, a number of which are termed as tourists, are now imprisoned and detained overseas.
There are various reasons for traveller imprisonment from drug related such as trafficking and possession or criminal acts which include murder and robbery. However, with trade on the increase globally, financial crimes which include embezzlement, bribery or corruption are now reoccurring more as a reason for detention. With China now one of the places Australians are most likely to be jailed, this has been linked to increased trade ties and business tourism.
Stricter criminal and religious codes in some countries mean that tourists are also arrested for spying or offending local religious codes. Of the 1127 British prisoners overseas assisted by the British non-governmental organisation (NGO) ‘Prisoners Abroad’ in July 2013, 45% were due to drug offences followed by murder (17%), sexual/rape (11.2%) and fraud (7.3%). Most (42%) were male (89%) and aged 45–60 years (42%).
Discussion on prison tourism has mostly been to date as historical reference within the context of dark tourism, on prisons that have now been decommissioned as places of previous penal justice or possible atrocities of which descriptions and exhibitions within often explain. An emphasis can be on how the prison visit is packaged and sold to visitors, the narrative that is given upon visitation and the degree to which it aligns and represents the stories and experiences of previous inmates.
Some have become particularly famous for tours due to notorious inmates or prison breaks, and being the backdrop of movie and television productions such as San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island prison. Working prisons are generally not for the tourist gaze and apart from consular, medical and family members their only other visitor will be the media to produce various reality documentaries. Those with particular notoriety can be included in tourism programmes generally due to the harsh and overcrowding prison environments and prisoner treatment within, such as Asian’s most infamous Klong Prem prison named the ‘Bangkok Hilton’ and the subject of several novels. The passing tourist will only be permitted to view from the outside. These severe conditions awaiting foreigners being detained awaiting trial or upon posting bail has sometimes meant fleeing the country rather than face the prospect of the squalid conditions of some foreign jails. One such case is that of the daughter of a wealthy British executive who vanished from Bangkok in 1996 having made bail accused of serious drug trafficking offences. She was the first foreigner to be given bail in Thailand on serious drug charges and, while wanted by Interpol, has been on the run ever since.
Arrest and detention may also be at no direct fault of the tourist but due to political conflict between States or internal civil unrest. These can often become high profile situations and standoffs such as the imprisonment of two US journalists in North Korea in 2009. Their release only transpired after intervention by President Clinton.
Given the numbers of tourists that are put in detention or imprisoned while travelling, responses from the tourism and hospitality industry have been fragmented and in most part silent. Tourism literature has debated and discussed the impacts of tourism upon destinations through various events not aimed directly at tourism but having a direct and negative consequence on visitor flows. These have included incidents related to civil unrest, acts or threats of terrorism, natural disasters, health scares, political unrest, epidemics crime and the deterioration of law and order.
These are all connected to image perceptions of the destination resulting in visitor decline and therefore contingent to the level of attention, influence and creditability the sources of information are having on the decision maker. There is debate in the industry at just when is it safe for the traveller again. Travel advisories issued by government foreign offices have been accused of prolonging the negative fallout from these incidents and delaying visitor recovery. In 2007, PATA issued its ‘Code for Fair Travel Advisory Issuance’ in which within its several highlighted points, discussed the need for greater transparency in travel advisories, equal treatment across all countries, removal of out of date information and to be updated quickly with information already in the public domain.
Yet within the extraneous factors affecting travel there is limited discussion in the literature on traveller detention and arrest. Some discussion has been made on travellers as either victims of crime incidentally by loosening of responsibility or deliberate victim by being perceived as a threat.
Where there is limited understanding is the traveller’s perception of detention in the country they are travelling to, the consequences and conditions of detention, if this is a factor on destination selection or even the level of awareness that the visitor has on what to do and basic rights if arrested there. Some research has suggested that imprisonment consequences can affect visitation.
On their study of Turkey’s destination image emphasised the need to portray Turkey as a safe and secure place for visitors as a leading attribute to encourage visitation. They isolate the example of the infamous movie of a foreign imprisoned in Turkey for drug smuggling, ‘Midnight Express’, mentioning that managing the perceptions of human rights, in this case prisoner rights portrayed very negatively in the movie, could have an impact on whether the country was viewed as safe and secure or friendly or hostile.
Why are tourists detained or arrested?

Tourists can become both the victim of crime and the instigator. Either one can lead to detention. Whether the naïve first time or experienced traveller caught off guard, the large gathering of tourists can become preferred locations for scam artists or criminal gangs. Tourists can find themselves fairly quickly a victim of a crime. These can range from crimes of distraction such as pick pocketing, to physical assault or rape. The traveller is detained for questioning, hospital care or to await the arrival of assistance from consular officers or family members. Those claiming refugee status, asylum or losing nationality will be detained until the issue is resolved to face either deportation or having the application approved by the local government. Travellers can become stateless and essentially in immigration limbo. The Steven Spielberg movie ‘The Terminal’ famously portrayed a man played by Tom Hanks trapped at New York’s J. F. Kennedy International Airport denied entry to the USA at the same time unable to return to his name country due to a revolution. The movie was inspired by the real-life Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri who arrived at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1988 without a passport and any papers to enter another country. He stayed there for over 17 years exiting on papers issued by the French authorities.
Arrests and imprisonment will happen under various reasons. These could be due to violation or insensitivity to local cultures and rules to which the traveller may or may not have been aware of. Some travellers though have alternative motives committing or about to commit serious criminal activities which can be based on acts such as drug smuggling, paedophilic crimes or people smuggling. Acts of terrorism have brought to the forefront that some foreigners have terrorism motives when overseas.
As seen from Table 1 of British travellers abroad, from April 2011 to March 2012 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) handled 6015 arrests internationally up 6% from the previous period, and an average of 10 hospitalisation cases per day. There were also victims from rapes, sexual assault and having passports stolen. By taking the total number of assistance cases and dividing by number of British visitors and residents, Britons in the Philippines and Thailand were the most likely to require consular assistance compared to any other country globally.

 Traveller nightmares

Table 1. Overview of total worldwide figures of consular assistance over the past four years (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2013a)
Spain is the top destination for British outbound travel, with 13.6 million visitors and 808,000 British residing there. It had 1909 arrests in 2011–2012, up by 9%, followed by the USA with 1305 arrests and Thailand with 204 arrests (see Table 2). Further investigation would be needed to determine if rising numbers of tourists were correlated to additional arrests.
Traveller nightmares
Table 2. Top 10 countries for total arrests/detentions of British nationals from April 2011 to March 2012 ordered by number of total arrests/detentions from highest to lowest (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2013a)
It has been suggested in this FCO report that many incidents may be alcohol-related arrests in popular holiday locations. With zero tolerance by police and law enforcement authorities in these locations, arrests often mean more than just a night in detention but what can become a trial and possible criminal proceedings. Drug-related arrests have been on the increase in 2012 by 2% leading to even longer imprisonment sentences. The USA was the leading country for drug-related arrests for British nationals at 11% of total arrests, followed by Spain at 7%. Half of the total cases of the British imprisoned abroad in 2011 were under 34 years of age.
With the advent of the social media, scenes of travellers getting into trouble abroad have become increasingly common news. The National Geographic channel has been showing its viewers for several series ‘inside accounts of capture, imprisonment, and pure terror far from home’ in its programme ‘Locked Up Abroad’. Viewers are encouraged to submit their story if they were locked up when overseas for a chance to be on the show. The issue of imprisonment can become more known when those imprisoned or detained are tortured, mistreated or given forms of punishment prohibited by international law. This can include beatings, being deprived of food and drink, subject to noise, or long-term solitary confinement. Foreign nationals imprisoned abroad will feel more vulnerable and alienated than if they were detained in their own country, unable to communicate in the local language or understand local customs and procedures. In many instances no special treatment is given with foreigners sharing the same prison conditions and jail cells as locals. Other countries cannot interfere with a particular country’s legal system unless international treaties are violated and when the prisoner’s own safety is in question such as under acts of torture, degradation or violence while in detention. Prisoner transfer can occur, but only if agreed by both States. Normally transfer needs consent from the prisoner as well, but it may not be needed if the prisoner is facing extradition.
Unwanted travel marketing

Potential travellers will receive an abundance of positivist communication messages from national tourism offices, destination marketing companies and the various tourism and hospitality brands and products within the location. While laws and consequences for violations can be sought out by travellers on immigration and travel warning websites, initial negative messaging and harsh warnings of possible imprisonment or possible death sentence normally for drug offences become more apparent only upon arrival. These messages are commonly displayed on arrival cards and signage messages dotted around immigration centres. It has become a policy of those governments without the death penalty to interfere where their nationals perhaps might be facing risk of execution. As well as a pre-condition to entry to the European Union (EU), the EU will campaign and carry out other actions to seek reprieve should an EU national be facing capital punishment in another country outside the EU.
The FCO’s ‘Know before you go’, an ongoing campaign since 2001 with over 500 travel industry partners, produces practical advice in preparing British travellers for overseas visits. It specifically targets groups such as gap year travellers, sports travellers, single sex groups, elderly and retired couples and independent travellers. Its supporting publications include ‘Victims of crime abroad’ and ‘in prison aboard’.
Several governments will provide travel advice on their websites on countries internationally and assessment of risks to travellers, including information to prepare before going, staying safe abroad and what to do should there be an emergency such as detention or imprisonment. The Irish Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides advice and warnings about overseas travelling on issues of security, understanding local laws and customs, having illegal drugs, use of alcohol and bribery and corruption. Not only is imprisonment possible in overseas countries should any of these be infringed, but on issues of corruption and based on certain Irish criminal laws, the Irish tourist can also be arrested on returning to Ireland.
Events related to sports, culture or meetings are used as a major tactic by destinations in the hope of attracting more visitors. Yet it is at these events that an increased security presence can occur to protect the event assets as well as the increased influx of visitors. The enlarged media presence particularly at larger sporting events, often put the arrest of foreigners into the spotlight. This can be a mixture of deliberate criminal activity or visitor misbehaviour. This is equated with a heightened response by a foreign office’s consular services at the destination should their own nationals be largely in attendance. It is anticipated that additional consular and security responses may be required at certain events which may include arrests of their nationals. During the London 2012 Olympic Games, the US Embassy in London increased the number of its consular staff by more than 35%.
The possibility of detention can occur throughout the visitor’s stay and at numerous places at the destination such as checkpoints, immigration centres and public buildings. It can also occur at tourists sites, in hotels, bar and restaurant streets and other places popular with tourists. Tourists have been arrested due to insulting behaviour at places of worship or breaching local customs. In 2010 a British couple was jailed for one month with subsequent deportation for kissing on a beach in Dubai as well as a fine for drinking alcohol. Dubai while a popular tourist destination has strict decency laws like other conservative Arab States.
A lack of inter-organisational coordination

While traveller detention is on the increase, the case can often be a complex one involving several local and international governmental agencies, private sector and families. Rather than an incident that is quickly resolved, detention is a lengthy process, involving a series of events from initial arrest to imprisonment and possible seizure of travel documents by local authorities. Communication and coordination failures can result between the travel industry and security services due to a lack of preparedness, training and relationships. In some instances, the visitor arrest can be as a result of a suspected crime at the hotel, restaurant, casino or other hospitality venues. Under the US law, while a hotelkeeper or restaurateur is not under any duty to prevent the arrest of a guest by the police, the hotel or restaurant can commit false arrest and imprisonment when it detains a person illegally and could be sued based on this. The traditional and social media increasingly publish unlawful arrests. In early 2013, a crackdown on illegal migrants in Greece also resulted in the arrest of bona fide tourists, who after their illegal detention turned to their embassy where complaints were lodged, causing diplomatic tensions.

While there can be a lack of communication and coordination between security services and the travel industry on how to work closely on issues of tourist arrest, collaboration has been shown to be possible. Conscious of possible football supporter hooliganism, during the 2006 Football World Cup in Germany, uniformed British police officers with limited powers of arrest were on duty in Germany, with German police at British ports. However, this coordination was only at a governmental level.
Travel insurance companies will often ply their services as a must have when travelling. With an emphasis on medial support, insurance cover may not cover costs evolved around arrest and detention. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office points this out, highlighting that most insurance policies do not include drink or drug-related incidents meaning that incarceration related to this will not be covered. Advice is also given by the FCO to obtain legal and public liability coverage with the possibility that the destination being visited has no legal aid system, or the visitor could be sued due to damage to an individual or property. A cheaper policy may mean less cover. Some can cover kidnapping, extortion, ransom and detention up to a set amount stipulated in the policy. The detention must be deemed illegal. However, even with perhaps limited cover from an insurance policy, 24% of total British travellers in 2012 did not have any travel insurance, 48% of 15–24-year-olds had none, while only 12% actually read the contents. The report showed that male British travellers were 8% less likely to take out insurance than were females.
There are communication failures to customers by the travel industry on informing and responding to arrest and detention in the destination being visited. With industry responses fragmented and often silent, greater collaboration efforts need to be established between the travel industry and those of the consular and security agencies who are left to primarily deal with this tourism consumption outcome.
Promotion and awareness of risk

Research into a traveller’s decision making process and criteria is well documented. Perceived risks and safety have shown to be a major predictor on destination choice. Issues of personal safety while travelling to a location have been discussed in the literature, with destination selection not being merely an economic perspective but on the condition of the environment that the traveller is arriving into.
Awareness should start at the point of initial decision making, which is increasingly being done online. On their review of published articles on eTourism over 20 years, acknowledged that the Internet was the most influential technology to influence travel behaviour. Reviewing 25 tourism and hospitality websites from 1996 to 2006, Hashim, Murphy, and Law consolidated 235 features into 5 dimensions and 15 sub-dimensions. These evolved primarily around sales and promotional information, product offerings and technical and copyright issues. External information was given but mostly as a marketing tool although the few external links (11) and news (3) features may have contained security and safety warnings but not reported in the writing. On research on Korean travellers, Kim and Lee found that information content was considered the most important for online travel agents for service quality judgement. For online travel suppliers the website structure and ease of use was more important. This information could contain warnings on local conditions. On the issue of travel agencies providing health-related advice to travellers, ‘travel agents argue that they are not doctors and that it is not their business to provide detailed health information’. The outcome from their research revealed that travel risks were being dismissed by travel agents with no detailed health information being given. In a survey of New Zealand travel agents,
Lovelock found that perceptions of destination safety were not reflected in the travel agent’s behaviour with respect to selling travel packages. This was put down to a number of possible reasons: that the travel agent would probably not be travelling there so feel less personal risk, the relationship between the travel agent and client and client profile, and the influence of external information sources. This research showed that newspapers, TV news and documentaries, travel insurance companies, travel magazines and colleagues were the most common sources of information on international destinations. A destination not necessarily broadcast on the news may still be lowly rated by an insurance company. Foreign affairs travel advisories and foreign embassies were rated low as information sources. The travel agents were questioned on whether they had ever felt unsafe at a destination and the cause of this feeling. Potential victim of a crime, motor vehicle or traffic and political unrest represented 45.2%, 43.5% and 33.9% of the responses, respectively. Actual fear of arrest and the consequences of such were not raised. As concluded by Lovelock, the use of possible bias, unsubstantiated and second-party news items as a main source to sell destinations to clients can be a concern, as it may downplay or even omit political and ethical issues.
International treaty and foreigner protection

Although prisoner torture is defined and prohibited under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), torture and ill-treatment for foreigner visitors under arrest does occur. The human rights records in some States mean that torture can take place and perhaps remain unreported for some time. Under the Vienna Convention (1963) article 36(1) REDRESS a British NGO which campaigns for the rights of those British being ill-treated as prisoners overseas noted there were 295 concerns of mistreatment raised and recorded by the British FCO between 2005 and March 2010 in across nearly 70 countries, both developed and developing.

The development and refinement of international treaties and laws governing the arrest and detention of foreign nationals has been codified over a number of years such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Under article 5(a) and 5(e) consular functions consist of protecting, helping and assisting their nationals within the limits of international law. The Vienna Convention stipulates under article 36(1) the rights of consular office to be informed by the arresting State, should their national be detained or imprisoned and have access and communicate with their national in detention.
Consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgement. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.

It is at the discretion of the arrested national if he or she wishes to seek assistance or tell others of his or her arrest. Depending on the foreign department or office’s policy, consular assistance and diplomatic protection may not be afforded as these are not considered rights. There can also be breaches of the Vienna Convention by States who do not inform or do so after a time, or simply deny any access to foreign nationals. The detained national is encouraged by consular department to outreach to family and friends. With ‘visiting friends and relatives’ being seen as a significant travel segment, there is the possibility that this form of tourism could receive greater local support. With friends and family residing in the locality, knowing local customs, laws and legal process, there is the prospect of additional assistance in contrast to family making flights to foreign countries to visit, with limited knowledge of local laws and having to engage the services of local lawyers.
The United Nations Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners set out minimal standards for inmates and mention about the need for prisoner human rights, interests, respect for religious beliefs upon imprisonment and for foreign prisoners to be given the same access as national prisoners to education, work and vocational training. In reality, countries can hold foreign prisoners in harsh environments with minimal rights.
Some States are known for possible torture which can occur in the early stages of detention and therefore quick access is important. There are several human rights groups and NGOs associated with protecting the rights of foreign nationals imprisoned overseas. Fair Trials Abroad (fairtrials.org.uk), an open internet platform to communicate a fair trial agenda, states that while there are a growing number of arrests of foreign travellers abroad it is increasingly difficult for them to get a fair trial particularly in a large number of developing nations. The site noted that the increased celebrity involvement and the use of the Internet have led to a global awareness of the issue with more people becoming involved in human rights abroad.
Foreign visitors are sometimes convicted on questionable evidence, have no lawyer to defend themselves at trial, the trial is held in the local language of which the foreigner doesn’t understand what is happening or they are presumed guilty by association to criminals as in the case of drug smuggling. Voluntary and charity agencies in various countries will reach out to their nationals imprisoned abroad, such as the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas and Prisoners Abroad in the UK. ‘Reprieve’, a British NGO working with prisoner families, government officials, international lawyers and human rights groups, assists ‘prisoners facing the death penalty, and prisoners held beyond the rule of law in the “war on terror,” whether in Guantánamo Bay or rendered to secret prisons elsewhere’.
Suggested areas to progress and research

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states that tourists and visitors should have the right to use all forms of internal and external communication, local health and legal services as well as to contact consular representatives from their country of origin. This evidently means greater involvement from the tourism and hospitality service sectors. The travel industry inertia to the possibility of tourist detention and imprisonment is apparent. Preparedness and response will require training and knowledge in the detention process in the location. Hospitality training in its leaning towards service quality delivery and creating a positive guest experience can exclude any knowledge on dealing with the more negative side of travel and tourism that can befall their guests. Simple training on what the traveller can and cannot do at the location and areas to seek assistance could be provided to hospitality staff so that the information is communicated to guests as well as integrated into messages within hotel communication materials. Important touch points prior to travel such as destination websites, travel insurance agencies and transportation providers could present clearer information on what could lead to detention at the destination and other possible security dangers.
Imprisonment is not expected and therefore not prepared for by visitors. This will have an impact across several dimensions of travel and tourism not only on the imprisoned traveller, family and friends but on the destination image brought about by discussions on broadcast, print or social media. The destination could react with amended policies and tolerance to visitors. International relations could be affected with impacts on travel and trade resulting as the arrest gathers political momentum. The issue of legal ratification and litigation of a traveller who gets arrested or detained due to an issue of not being adequately informed at the product purchase channel such as a travel agent or online booking platform will be subject to debate. The UNWTO (2001, p. 5) states that ‘tourism professionals have an obligation to provide tourists with objective and honest information on their places of destination and on conditions of travel, hospitality and stays’. Whether travellers would have committed a wilful criminal act or insult to a local cultural or religious setting had they known more of the consequences are potential areas to examine. This also does not consider the industry’s response and actions towards their guests and customers due to false arrest and illegal detention. Increasing civil and criminal liability to hospitality providers such as tour operators and online travel booking platforms may change this.
The literature’s reference to criminal activity has been primarily on the impact to traveller perceptions, impact on the destination or on travellers who have become victims of crime. Little in the literature is known on the various consequences and outcomes of actual visitor imprisonment and detention to the various stakeholders involved. Support to imprisoned travellers is primarily from consular departments and related NGOs. However, the prisoner is encouraged during incarceration to reach out to family and friends for financial, legal and emotional support. Those visiting friends and family can be in a position to receive more local support, advice and visitation. Research could explore the differences of overseas to local family and friends’ involvement in the imprisonment process from treatment, prisoner well-being to final judgment.
The ‘tourism gaze’ can go beyond resulting in actions leading to detention and imprisonment. While tourism literature may discuss behaviour, motivations and activities, it rarely mentions consequences and responses. Community and environment are highlighted in stakeholder discussion, examining resident attitudes towards the impacts of tourism. The consensus in the literature is that residents need to support tourism development for it to be successful with mutual benefits between host and visitor in this exchange.
This is normally examined around a scaling of economic, socio-cultural and environment impacts. Research suggests that resident opposition towards tourism will be based on perceived negative environmental and social impacts. Addressing social concerns and highlighting economic and cultural benefits from tourism is suggested to gauge community support. Cultural insensitivity, unruly behaviour or criminal activity by foreigners could be considered as negative elements affecting local support from residents which could be further augmented due to seriousness of the crime and the interest of media and government. Incorporating levels of policing to monitor tourism increases, perceived crime by visitors and foreigner prisoner detention could be further explored in the community on its impact towards their support on tourism development.
Arrests and detentions will continue in travel and tourism, and as the numbers of those travelling increase, this article has isolated gaps on areas such as industry training, knowledge, communication, response and at times ambivalence to the issue.

With travel being associated with relaxation, leisure, fun and other positive attributes, it is not surprising to see the issues of fear, distress and trauma possibilities caused by imprisonment being so polarised, hidden and in many instances a taboo subject from the positive slant consistently plied by tourism and hospitality marketing communication. The negative image of prisoner detention, particularly if highly publicised, may have a knock-on effect on possible future travel there. Notwithstanding the consequences to destinations such as a negative destination image or impact on the host community by offences and crimes caused by visitors, the tourism industry’s response to traveller imprisonment whether innocent or guilty has remained fairly silent. It has fallen largely on governmental agencies such as embassies and security services to handle along with some prisoner abroad charities or ‘self-help’ communicated on social media sites.
One issue has been on the complexity of the issues involved in the detention to incarceration process. Botterill and Jones suggest greater cross-disciplinary research between criminology and tourism studies and a focus on the occurrence of criminal acts committed by tourists. Yet this omits the efforts and importance of organisations such as embassies and consular services so pivotal and responsible for dealing with detained and jailed nationals when overseas. Issues of human rights, traveller innocence, prison environment, fair trial and adequate legal representation should also be part of the research discussion.
Tourism impact studies have considered many dimensions on how tourism development is currently or could impact the location, local society and traveller intentions. Safety and security has been an important dimension on destination choice to which the threat of imprisonment could be considered. Yet more needs to be done on understanding how the issue of imprisonment or detention affects the tourism industry. Marketing of destinations and hospitality products and services mainly will take a positive spin reflecting little if any negative consequences. This reluctance is also apparent in front line sales channels such as travel agents or online travel services. The tourism industry has left the issue of communicating possible imprisonment and its consequences to government authorities and related NGOs as well as dealing with the fallout should it happen. Diplomatic and consular missions will be at the forefront of any negative event not just tourist detention but political unrest, natural or health disaster or act of terrorism.


Foreign offices will provide the right for its nationals to travel through passports and exit visas. The role and responsibilities though of foreign consuls as a force within tourism and interaction with other agencies such as local government, law enforcement, welfare agencies and human rights groups remain scant too in the tourism literature. While no direct correlation of increasing traveller numbers and those being imprisoned has been tested, given the large numbers travelling to overseas locations, further needs to be known on the traveller’s perspective and insight on detention and imprisonment at the destination. Understanding how sources of influence such as movies, television documentaries, social media discussion on high profile prison detentions and government travel advisories impact travel decisions can give more realistic input to offset these possible negative location avoidance messages in future destination marketing campaigns.
Given that detention is possible at many touch points along the tourism consumption process, further examination on the accuracy and adequacy of messages communicated along this journey needs to be addressed. Travellers have a right to know information that is timely, accurate and reliable to sufficiently make a well-informed travel judgment. Staff training at hotels, restaurants, bars, religious sites, tour guiding and other activities could involve providing preventive measures to visitors, including clear signage or information packs. Online platforms such as websites or downloadable location Apps for Smartphones and Tablets could alert visitors throughout their stay. The tourist that ends up detained or imprisoned has urgent and distinct needs which can be left unanswered and unmet for some time. While an unwanted product in the tourism and hospitality industry, its involvement of so many, negative fallout and possible dramatic consequences on the traveller should be factors that push for greater insight and research by tourism academia.
SOURCE: Taylor & Francis Group
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